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Saving the Colorado River -- from us

May 28, 2013|By Alexandra Le Tellier
  • Kids fishing at Kingman Wash wait for bass to bite at Lake Mead National Recreation Area in Arizona. A "bathtub ring" marking Lake Mead's highest levels is visible in the background.
Kids fishing at Kingman Wash wait for bass to bite at Lake Mead National Recreation… (Julie Jacobson / Associated…)

The Colorado River, which hydrates seven states including California, is in peril due to a severe regional drought. “If the trend continues, Lake Powell and Lake Mead, the Colorado River's two giant reservoirs, will be at 45% capacity by year's end, their lowest since 1968,” reports The Times’ Tony Perry, who also writes that “officials are expected to form three committees to examine the problem and propose solutions.”

Perhaps these committees might consider suggestions offered in recent Op-Eds that tackle the issue of the Colorado River’s diminishing water supply.

“We in the Colorado River basin need to make do with the water we have. We can do it, now and well into the future, if we are willing to look beyond the traditional approach to managing the river,” wrote Wade Graham, an adjunct professor of public policy at Pepperdine University, in a December Op-Ed.

One approach, “at virtually no cost and with no need to change the laws that govern water in the basin,” would be to consolidate water in Lake Mead, Graham writes.  

Lake Mead and Lake Powell lose huge volumes of water to evaporation in the desert sun and to seepage into the dry ground. By consolidating the water in Lake Mead, the bureau could save as much as 300,000 acre-feet a year -- equal to the state of Nevada's entire entitlement. […]

Moving more water to Lake Mead would not only protect the water supply, it would also begin to heal the ecological damage that Lake Powell has wreaked on Glen Canyon and the Grand Canyon.

Continue reading: “In an arid land, managing our thirst.

Scott Moore, a research fellow at Harvard University with a specialty in water resource conflict, argues that we need national leadership to help end “America’s water wars,” as he puts it in an Op-Ed that ran this month.  

First, Congress should restore funding for the U.S. Water Resources Council and the regional River Basin Commissions. Before they were de-funded during the Reagan administration, these bodies served as focal points for water policy and as useful platforms for dialogue between states and the federal government. By fostering sustained, structured communication among Washington and the states themselves, they can help prevent disputes from arising in the first place.

Second, the president should appoint special mediators to resolve interstate water disputes, so that states have an alternative to resorting to the courts. Herbert Hoover played such a role before being elected president, and his efforts were crucial to fostering initial discussions among the seven states that share the Colorado River.

Continue reading: “Calming the West's water wars.

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Follow Alexandra Le Tellier on Twitter @alexletellier

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